Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day Two, “Tired of the journey, Jesus sat down facing the well”Jan 19th, 2015 | By Casey Chalk | Category: Blog Posts
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
That Jesus was “tired out by his journey,” offers further insightful commentary on ecumenical dialogue. Often when opportunities for important conversations regarding faith and morals present themselves, we are not at our best. We are distracted by responsibilities related to family, work, school, and the like. We are overwhelmed by the daily trials of our lives and the frustrations of our own sins and failings. We might have been intending for a different kind of conversation, one that would not so easily provoke strong feelings or lead our heart rates to spike. And, if we have already spent much time talking or debating religion, we may be tired from what can sometimes seem like a lot of fruitless arguing that won’t amount to much but more frustration and discouragement. We can get exhausted just thinking about discussing or contemplating issues that are so complicated, so controversial, so difficult to explain or comprehend. It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to talking about religion. We may feel like we’ve already covered this ground before, and are skeptical that anything new or good could possibly come from re-visiting old wounds. Theology is not easy, and talking about religion with people with whom you disagree is not typically “fun” (at least, not for most of us).
Yet as so frequently happens, when we least expect it, we find ourselves right smack dab in the middle of an intense conversation about religion. We may be anxious about whether or not we’ll be able to effectively and accurately represent our own beliefs and why we believe them. We may be inclined to be more interested in “winning” than talking. We may be more focused on just getting our own point across and moving on with our lives than doing the hard work needed to have a fruitful and charitable conversation. And we may especially have trouble listening, especially if we’ve already decided we’re definitely right or that our opponents are definitely wrong.
Yet we, like Christ, must seek to take the higher road if we want to have conversations that will be profitable and glorifying to God. Even at moments of weariness, distraction, or intense emotion, we must sympathize with those with whom we disagree. We must, as much as the Holy Spirit allows, appreciate, love, and understand our interlocutors. We may not be persuaded by their arguments, but we must at least try, as best as we are able, to understand and appreciate them objectively. Ecumenical dialogue, in a very deep sense, is a family affair. We are all of the same family, that of Christ Himself. Disagreements within the family are often the ones that hurt the most, elicit the most passion, and cause the most strife. Yet for the sake of the family, for the sake of its unity, we must have those conversations, because it is only through the dialogue, the mutually-shared experiences, that we can hope to reconcile and be “one,” as Christ so fervently prayed in John 17:21. We must put aside our tendencies for skepticism and cynicism regarding the possibilities of religious dialogue, in the hope that we might in some small way honor the Lord Jesus’s request that we indeed be “one,” as the Father and the Son are one. Let us pray that we might find opportunities, even in our weariness, to sit at the well where Jesus sat, and accept the opportunities to talk and listen. Who knows who might happen to walk by and offer the opportunity for a life-changing conversation?
Gracious God, we are weary of conflict, cynicism, and the felt need to win arguments. Allow us to rest at the well. Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.